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Bennetts End Reformed Baptist Church in Hemel Hempstead | The Holy Bible and The TV Guide

 The gift of tongues as understood in the Bible

The gift of tongues has provoked more disagreement and disunity than all the other gifts put together! The Biblical meaning of the words translated into English in Acts Chapter 2 are "dialectos" which means dialect and the word "glossolalia" which simply means a language spoken.

It is believed by many Christians that tongues is a form of speech uttered in an unknown language, and has no intelligible meaning unless accompanied by the gift of interpretation, and is designed to help worshippers express themselves freely to God.

Nowhere in the Bible are we given a definition like this, nor do the church leaders, appointed just after the death of the apostles, say this.

Tongues (the supernatural ability to speak in a foreign language), as mentioned in Acts and Corinthians, are no longer needed. Their need was fulfilled in 70 A.D. when the judgment which they spoke of came upon Israel; therefore, this supernatural gift is gone.

Some helpful historical background

Augustine born 13 November, 354, in the fourth century was sure that the gift had ceased to exist.
From the death of the Apostle John (about 100-110 A.D.) to the early 1800's, there was only one other instance in church history of this type of movement.
The outbreak occurred under the teachings of Montanus about 156 A.D., while Polycarp, a disciple of John, was still alive and pastor at Smyrna. The "supernatural" outbreak occurred even though Polycarp said the gifts of the apostles had ceased. (It was carried on by two women who left their husbands to follow Montanus.) The early church completely rejected Montanus' teachings and the phenomena ceased.
Some 1700 years! Of so called speaking in tongues ceased!
"The gifts" remained silent until the early 1800's and started again by a man by the name of Edward Irving. At the age of sixteen, Irving was a licensed Presbyterian minister (1815) with an M. A. Degree from Edinburgh University.
Also about this time another man named John Darby came into prominence; he was a founder of the Plymouth Brethren movement and counts many famous men as his followers, including C.I. Scofield.
Darby was ordained an Anglican priest at the age of twenty (1826), having graduated from Trinity College at the age of eighteen. In 1825, a group of people had become completely fed up with the dead formal Protestant Church of Ireland and England; therefore, in the town of Plymouth, they started home Bible-study and prayer groups. Darby, also disenchanted with the Anglican Church in Ireland, started meeting with these groups in 1827. Their first project was to attack the deadness and formalism of the organized Anglican Church and the ministry.
These groups adopted the name Plymouth Brethren after the town where they were organized, Plymouth.
Until the time of John Darby there was no dispensational teaching as we know it today.
In 1826, a wealthy banker Henry Drummond sponsored a series of prophetic conferences at his villa at Albury Park, England (1826- 1830).
Irving came to these meetings and presented his prophetic views which included his views of the renewal of "the gifts." At the Albury Conference, he heard of a charismatic revival of "the gifts" which had broken out in Ireland and became ecstatic. From the Albury Conference, there was a delegation sent to investigate.
In addition, throughout the fall of 1830, there were prayer meetings held in private homes in London seeking an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. One of these homes was the home of J.B. Cardale, the leader of the delegation to Scotland to investigate the charismatic revival, where the first known case of speaking in tongues in England occurred. A short time later the Cardales joined Irving's church.
In America after WW II came tent meetings and Oral Roberts with his followers, one of whom was a very important man to the movement, Damus Shacarian.
He came from a very rich family in California, had been involved in the Azusa St. Revival, and was the "set-up" man for Oral Roberts in the 50's and 60's.
The timing was perfect for an exciting, experience-oriented religion: it was right after the war with much social unrest (comparable to the time of Richard Sparling and the Bethel Bible College), dead churches and a great spiritual hunger. Damus saw the opportunity, so he approached Oral Roberts pointing out that they were not reaching Damus' upper-class society; they were reaching the older society yet not making any inroads into the established churches.
He told Roberts that he had an idea. "Why not," he said, "go around the churches directly to the people, especially to the business community?" Keep in mind that he is talking of reaching people in dead formal churches, tired of getting the "power of positive thinking" messages.
Shacarian realized that the deadness was leaving a tremendous vacuum in the land, so he said, "Let's reach this group of people. Let's hire a hotel room, get these business people together, let them have a drink or cigarette if they want to and give them the 'good news' that they can have instant communication with God through the 'Baptism of the Holy Spirit.'"
Oral Roberts led their first meeting in L.A. with 21 in attendance. This meeting started "The Full Gospel Businessmen Association," which now still runs today.

Some helpful questions and answers

Question: So how can we know what 'tongues' is?

Answer: The first reference to tongues in the life of the early church is found in Acts 2. In Mark 16:17 our Lord promised his disciples that those who believe will speak in 'new tongues'.

It tells us nothing about the exact nature of the 'tongue'.In Acts 2:4-11, two interesting Greek words are used.  One is the word glossa, which either means the 'tongue' in your mouth or the. 'languages' spoken by the various nations;

The other "word used in these verses is the Greek word dialectos or 'dialect'.

It may not be possible to make a clear distinction between the two words, but in Acts 2:4.11, the word 'glossa' is used, and in verses 6 and 8 it is the word 'dialectos'.

Acts 2:4.11

4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
5 And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. 6And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. 7Then they were all amazed and marvelled, saying to one another,
"Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? 9Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs--we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God."

So in verse 6 we are told everybody heard the apostles speaking in his own dialect. and in verse 11 they exclaim, 'We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own languages!'.

Question: Why the difference?

Answer: There is only one satisfactory explanation that one can give. By using both words to refer to the same thing, God made absolutely sure that we would understand that the gift was one of real languages known to the hearers, even though unknown to the disciples. That was a supernatural gift, but it was NOT the strange, uncontrolled and meaningless utterances used in pagan Greek religions.

So remember, it will be perfectly accurate to put in the word 'languages' wherever you find 'tongues' in the New Testament.

Question: But what about the occasions later on when we read of tongues in the book of Acts?

Answer: If we agree that the gift of tongues in Acts was one of languages, we must then consider its purpose. The disciples would have been understood by most if they had preached in Greek as Peter, later in Acts 2, almost certainly did.

The gift of tongues was a sign to the Jews that the Gospel was for every language and nation. On that day of Pentecost , God gave to his apostles the miraculous gift of speaking in the languages of all the visitors to Rome, so that everyone would know. Paul makes this point years later in 1 Corinthians 14:22.  

For further reading please see Brian Edwards - "Tongues and all That"



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